'Sentry box' life about to change for quake uninsured

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 19/08/2012
Phil Thompson, with his cat Boss, by the caravan that has been home for 18 months, adjacent to his uninsured house.
DON SCOTT/Fairfax NZ

QUAKE VICTIMS: Phil Thompson, with his cat Boss, by the caravan that has been home for 18 months, adjacent to his uninsured house.

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Despite two winters living in a caravan on the front lawn of his home of 45 years - land deemed among the most risky to build on in Christchurch - 65-year-old Phil Thompson considers himself luckier than most.

He was uninsured when the earthquakes hit, and his green-blue (technical category 3) Shirley home has been stripped of furniture and plaster, is raised on wooden blocks, and is sinking in the middle.

Now retired, and unable to afford a builder, he has no choice but to repair it himself.

"She's a grand old lady, and we just need to give her some botox. I'm retired, so I have nothing better to do anyway."

When the February 2011 earthquake hit, the house "moved extensively" off its foundations, the power was cut, and it became unlivable.

Thompson said he paid insurance on the house for about 30 years.

But when he and his wife separated in 2000 he could no longer afford it, and without insurance he was also ineligible for Earthquake Commission cover.

The day after the quake, Thompson, his 53-year-old partner Debra Savage, and their cat Boss, moved into a tiny caravan on their front lawn, shifting all their belongings into a shipping container in the driveway. "The house is the castle, we're just temporarily in the sentry box."

For 18 months they have showered at a neighbour's house, carried a torch and climbed through their broken home to use the toilet, and kept a small amount of clothes in a plastic container under a table.

A dehumidifier stops condensation from wetting the bedding at night. "We have seen snow in this caravan, flooding in this caravan, and been through two winters - it's not fun."

The pair both have serious health problems and Thompson said he had been getting "a little bit angry at the bastards holding me back", and at first he had felt "disenfranchised and alone" as one of "the great uninsured".

Thompson's land was late last year labelled TC3, the most unstable in the city that hasn't been red-zoned.

Many disgruntled TC3 residents have protested against the repair delays, a lack of answers, and the miscommunication over their land.

But Thompson said he sighed with relief when he went green-blue and not red.

"I used to feel terrified being uninsured, but now I feel lucky.

"I feel sympathy for the insured, because they are getting royally dealt to by insurance companies and the Earthquake Commission.

"I don't have to wait for other people to make a decision because I'm paying."

Instead of waiting on bureaucratic hurdles, Thompson must wait on the weather.

He had an engineer assess his foundations last week and said work was expected to start on his house within the next two weeks.

"We may be uninsured but we are not whingeing about it, we just want to get in and do it."

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